Have you ever played one of these ‘answer a few questions’ games on the internet (usually on Facebook) and it will tell you what employment you had in a former life, or which where you should holiday next, and it gets even stranger, some will tell you what colour you are!
Playing a few of them is fun, but taking them seriously is to be avoided.
However, if I asked you what is your stage of spiritual development, that might be altogether more serious, and I think, much more useful, whatever faith-tribe you belong to!
So, what is your stage of spiritual development?
There are a number of good ‘tables’ and charts, and theories that outline spiritual maturity, but one of my most used is Fowler’s stages of faith/spirituality. What follows, then, is an outline, based loosely on Fowler’s work. And, it might be beneficial (bearing in mind this is only an outline),to ask yourself where you are on the following stages of the spiritual journey:
Stage 1: Subjective faith: Adherence to the rules (but little or no understanding as to why) is the mark of this stage. Good experiences in life will encourage one to trust God/the Universe, but negative experiences will encourage one to distrust. God is seen as remote, and given to mood changes for no reason, even capriciousness. Those at this stage, the ‘beginners stage’ may ask, ‘Why does God have his favourites, and why aren’t I one of them?’ God is seen as a distant ‘mythic’ character. It is, as one would expect for someone just starting a spiritual journey, a naïve stage.
Stage 2: Literal faith: God is viewed in anthropomorphic terms. If the Bible says, ‘and underneath are the everlasting arms…'(Deut 33:27b) then God must surely have arms, and likely to have legs, and look like us. God is ‘understood through stories told, and in experiences felt, and in the lives of the people they meet. Authority-figures welcomed by those at this stage. Literal stage. Most church members or faith-group members are at this stage, and encouragement is needed is to move onto stage 3.
Stage 3: Maturing faith: God is viewed as close(r), but maybe not too close. Respect for order is evident, and a liking for conformity prevails. It is the stage of an adult-maturity level of faith. However, conflicts with ones belief are likely to be ignored for fear of the spiritual consequences. Most local church pastors or faith-group leaders are, it is said, at this stage, as are most long-term adherents.
The ‘Judder’: To progress above stage 3 requires some trauma to be overcome. This could be a loss of work with bad consequences, a major illness or something of that kind. Those who experience and overcome this ‘barrier’ move on to stage 4. Those who never experience such trauma or shy away from it, or don’t deal with it well, are likely to remain at stage 3.
Stage 4: Objective faith: Outwardly, it may resemble stage 1. There is an observance to rules (well, some of them), but now there is some understanding as to what they really are, and what these observances and symbols mean.
At this stage, of which only a few reach, one is able to reflect, objectively, one ones own belief and hold questions ‘in tension’ without fear. This stage sometimes labelled the ‘second naivety’.
Stage 5: Non-literal faith: Resembling stage 2, outwardly, some of the unresolved questions are seemingly resolved at this stage, by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent “truth” that cannot be explained by any particular statement. Except love (everyone).
Stage 6: Mature faith: Resembling, outwardly, stage 3, this stage is the universal-love-everything stage. It is a stage marked by grace, peace, justice, and a spiritual calmness come what may.
So, there you have it. Where are you? What stage? Compared to, say five years ago have you matured? This is a rhetorical exercise, so please don’t post results publicly, though do please let me know what you think of this ‘adaption’ of Fowlers stages of spiritual progress. Also, do remember that this is an adaptation and only a brief outline. Something to enjoy and ponder upon, and as an encouragement to take the next step on your spiritual journey whatever your faith-tribe.